A UAE company has developed a shisha pipe that it says is a less harmful alternative to traditional hookah.
Medad Technology said its Nesta pipe delivers a nicotine hit via ultrasonic vibrations, which could cut cancer risk from inhaling toxic fumes.
The smoking pipe was unveiled at the World Vape Show at Dubai World Trade Centre this week.
The device’s patented algorithm produces mist droplets containing nicotine that are evenly distributed as they are inhaled.
Misting is distinct from vaping as it uses ultrasound technology rather than heat.
As no charcoal or tobacco is burnt, there are no harmful carbon emissions or toxic fumes that are usually inhaled by users of traditional hookah pipes, the company claims.
An estimated 100 million people use shisha, or similar water pipes, on a daily basis around the world.
It is particularly popular in the Middle East, where between 12-15 per cent of the population are regular users.
“The challenge was to develop real, alternative products that were safer than shisha and e-cigarettes, not categorised under vaping, so a completely new product,” said Mohammed Al Mazrouei, chief executive of Medad Holding, which is based in Dubai with its R&D facility in Abu Dhabi.
“Our aim was to completely transform the health of users, so we had to move away from smoke.”
Mr Al Mazrouei said Nesta is a better option than shisha as it is 100 per cent smoke-free and doesn’t burn or heat tobacco.
“Most e-cigarettes and vapes have cancer causing properties, are carcinogenic or use formaldehyde [a flammable chemical],” he said.
“This is a unique system that satisfies the user but has no harmful elements.”
The device has been approved by the European Union Medical Agency and by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
It is under review by UAE authorities. The company is planning to also apply for approval by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The product also offers the potential to cut the emissions that come from traditional shisha pipes, which produce about 143 grams of CO2 for every gram of tobacco burnt, the company said.
The Medad technology has been four years in the making, at a cost of more than $50 million.
Similar technology is already in use by the company’s NebMist device, currently on sale in Abu Dhabi, as a less harmful alternative to vaping or cigarettes.
Conventional shisha exposes users to the harmful effects of tobacco, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead.
The potential health impacts of long-term shisha use include heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy.
Concerns over Gulf's teenage shisha smokers
A recent Global Youth Tobacco Survey found more young people in the region were turning to shisha than cigarettes.
Research showed that 9 to 15 per cent of 13 to 15-year-old schoolchildren in the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Yemen smoked water pipes instead of cigarettes.
On average, a user will inhale about 200 times more during a single shisha session than a cigarette smoker, while the average amount of smoke inhaled during a typical hookah session is estimated to be about 90,000 millilitres.
A patent has been secured for the Nesta device and while a price has not yet been confirmed, it is expected to be more expensive than conventional hookah pipes.
The company's Nebmist device, a vape alternative using the same technology, costs Dh360 with refills at Dh120.
“Shisha can cost around Dh300 in some parts of Dubai, and the Nesta will cost a little more — but it is worth paying for a less harmful option,” said Mr Al Mazrouei.
“We hope the price will come down. As we are using medical-grade nicotine, with different flavours, and water — it is much safer.
“Hundreds of millions of people smoke shisha, particularly in this region. This is a safer and less harmful product.”